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I am assisting a friend whose layout consists of under the table tortoise switch machines.  He is not a train guy, this layout came with the house.  Most of the turnouts permit a train to pass through if the train enters from one of the diverging routes and the switch is aligned against the train.  This seems to be a function of the springeness (sp) of the throw arm.  One turnout is very stiff, resulting in consistent derailments if not set correctly.  I am guessing bending the throw arm may help but don't want to attempt this without some conformation.  Can anyone with experience with these offer some suggestions?


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Just to clear. Which brand of turnout is on the layout. I’m not sure of the size of the size of the supplied wire with the Tortoise. It is on the lighter side for O gauge and the switch points do move fairly easy with it. But it does work. I believe I used 032 music rod. Still moves easily but with a little more tension. You may have different diameter ones.

There is an L shaped piece that slides up and down that can also effect the tension. If the rails aren’t getting thrown far enough. Make sure the wire rod isn’t hitting the roadbed where it passes through. Most times you can drop the Tortoise and carve the hole a little more oval to increase the throw.

I have used Tortoise switch machines on my layout since 1987. Since they are continually powered even in the stall mode they are designed to prevent trains traversing the switch when it is set against them. Locomotives often can navigate a switch thrown against it but the cars behind it will not usually manage to pass through the switch without derailing. The switches can be wired for non-derailing but the basic design of the Tortoise is to hold the points. The heavier the wire connecting the Tortoise to the throw bar the harder it is to "pick the points." If the Tortoise machines are wired using bi-color LED's and double pole and double throw switches the direction of the switch is easy to tell. This is all explained in the instruction sheet that comes with the Tortoise. To answer your question I do not think that bending the throw arm is a good idea and probably will not achieve the result you want. Going to a lighter throw wire might work, but it also will not hold the points as tightly. To discuss further call me at (847)432-1475.

First off,  I agree with triplex.  The correct method is to wire them for non-derailing if you want them to work religiously.  However, if there is a cheat or an easy way out, we all seem to try and go that route. You say it works "fine" on the rest of the switches so I would try and match the pressure the points have against the main rails. Just pull the points back with your finger and then do the same with the offending switch to compare pressure.  Adjust the spring wire to be the same as the one that seems to work. You can play around with the pressure, a little more, a little less.  Other than that, go with triplex's suggestion - do it right.

My experience has been totally different. I've used Tortoise using a .032" spring wire for 25 years with Ross switches.  I found the Ross/Tortoise combination to be inherently non-derailing without using any additional electronics or wiring. The only exception is when very light cars are traversing the switch in the "wrong" direction.   In fact, I use Ross switches with a simple spring (without a switch machine at all) for reversing loops to allow a train to enter the diverging switch path and return safely via the straight path because the wheel flange is able to temporarily push the curved "springy" point out of the way.

Tortoise with Atlas switches here.  The Tortoise comes with .025" spring wire... which I found a whisker to short for my bench work (1/2" ply, 1/2" homosote, topped with roadbed).   I bought 2 pieces of 10' piano wire.  One was .026" the other .032".   I tested both and went with the .026"... light and very light cars can traverse the divergent non-derailing feature without derailing.   There is nothing wrong with the heavier gauge... just add weight to your light rolling stock (and, any very light pilot trucks).  You also may want to check that the switch isn't screwed down so tightly that it causes the throw bar to drag on the road bed/table top.

Last edited by Dennis-LaRock

Tortoise machines here, 29 of them so far. I have to agree with Dave_C on this one. My prior switch machines were DZ-1000's and I didn't care for the action of hammering the points back and forth when changing direction. I can only image that "X" amount of wheel sets running through a closed switch can't be healthy for them and leads to premature throw bar wear.  

To be clear, he and i do not know who constructed this layout.  The turnouts are either ross or curtis highrail.  The location on the offending turnout precludes manual throw along with several others.  Yes, lighter cars derail but that can be corrected by weighting them, that was part of my plan.  Many of the turnouts throughout the layout (except one) hold the points fine and yet allow a train to pass through if necessary, wiring for non derailing may be a solution i will have to look up the instructions.  My concern with non derailing is the time to throw is slow, not at all like a dz1000 which is where i guess the name comes from.  Next time i visit I'll try to post a picture from the underside, it looks like the throw wire strikes one side of the install hole and whoever installed it bent the wire to make it work.  They also placed mounting screws at an angle then added benchwork adjacent to the machine rendering removal all but impossible unless i can cut off the screw head. 

Yes throwing the turnout is more realistic but my friend is very much a newbee who had this layout thrust upon him. (a long story for another time) For now simple solutions may be best.

Thanks for responding, updates to follow.

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